What's next for Northam?

While we wait for today’s anticipated press conference from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, you might want to call up your bookie and place some bets on what the next act of this drama will entail. Ed was updating Northam’s apologies and refusal to resign well into the evening last night, but nothing definitive has been forthcoming thus far.

Is the press conference destined to be the moment when the governor resigns, or could he drag this out a bit longer? There are “inside sources close to the governor” signaling that he will bow out. Others, such as James Woods, think he might hang on for a few more days.

Philip Bump had a rundown of what’s coming next at the WaPo last night. He’s probably got the right sense of this political implosion, covering different possible scenarios. One is that Northam just resigns, either today or in the very near future. The other two are that he refuses to go and the legislature impeaches him or he survives through sheer inertia and goes on to finish his term. But the smart money seems to indicate we should get ready for Governor Justin Fairfax. And because of a loophole in the state constitution, he could wind up serving the better part of two terms.

Again, though, it is early, and politicians often shy away from resignation in their initial responses to scandal. If he does resign, the next step is simple: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax becomes governor.

This, in itself, is interesting. Two weeks ago, The Washington Post reported that Fairfax, who is black, stepped away from his duties presiding over the state Senate briefly while the legislative body took a ceremonial action honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Fairfax’s assuming Northam’s position would be interesting, too, because of a loophole in the constitution. Two experts on the state’s governing document who spoke with The Post by email confirmed that if Fairfax were to replace Northam following the latter’s resignation, he would be eligible to run for reelection to the governor’s mansion at the end of Northam’s term — bucking the one-term rule that normally binds the state executive.

Of the three possibilities that Bump lays out, I’d put them in the following order:

1. Northam resigns today.
2. He survives this and finishes his term.
3. Impeachment.

Northam can’t just spend the rest of his tenure hiding in a bunker. He has to do public appearances on a regular basis and he probably knows he’ll be the target of regular protests every time that happens. If the pressure was only coming from Republicans he might have tried to stick it out and see if the outrage would eventually die down, but he’s under fire from Democrats across the country. It’s probably not a tenable situation.

With that said, if he’s really determined to stick it out, he probably knows that an impeachment bid might not succeed. After all, he hasn’t technically broken any laws. Are there really enough votes to impeach him over a yearbook photo? Keep in mind that Mark Sanford was under fire and being threatened with impeachment after his little excursion hiking the Appalachian Trail. He wound up only getting censured and finishing his term.

Bottom line, I’d put it at about 60/40 that he resigns today. But if he doesn’t, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that he finishes the term.